The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Fisking of Sam Brownback

I came across a piece of writing by Sam Brownback where he tries to explain why he raised his hand when asked if he (among the other Republican candidates on-stage) did not believe in evolution. It's a horrible display of misunderstood information and hackneyed rationalizing under the guise of explanation. I must fisk.

Brownback begins the bit with an assumption he has no business making and ends with a statement that is a complete non sequitor:
The truths of science and faith are complementary: they deal with very different questions, but they do not contradict each other because the spiritual order and the material order were created by the same God...reason itself cannot answer every question.
Firstly, he assumes that there is a God, which makes no sense because that is not the starting point in an argument. You do not begin by assuming an invisible person made the cosmos, the solar system, the planet and everything on it, then go from there. No evidence generally equals leaving that particular idea on the back-burner for a spell. As I've said previously, I do not identify as an ahexabuffavertovenesian aerialist because the idea of six-legged flying green buffalo on Venus makes no sense and neither does Brownback's idea of God.

Secondly and more annoyingly, I hate it when religious or pseudo-scientific fuckheads say that science or reason "can't answer everything", or "doesn't have all the answers". Neither science nor reason claims to have all the answers or be the panacea for all life's questions - Brownback does here what so many others have done before him and placed science and reason on a pedestal in an ivory tower against its will and obviously without understanding what he is writing about.

Next we have:
Faith supplements the scientific method by providing an understanding of values, meaning and purpose.
No it does not. I'm tired of people saying that faith instills meaning and purpose and values in people - if that were true then atheists would have none of these things and we quite obviously do. Brownback's argument falls horribly short on that front and he never addresses it, he just blows past and assumes that everyone agrees with him. Values come from the same place in everyone, whether you are a faithful acolyte or a non-believer full of heathenish rage - you're family and social group. We atheists and secular folks just give the credit where it's due and not to some vengeful deity. Same holds true when a doctor or other professional who has taken years to perfect their craft does some extraordinary feat to save a life and the recipient, after getting better, insults that person's efforts by thanking God and His will to keep the sick/dying patient alive for another few days/months/years. As Daniel Dennett says, thank goodness, not God.

Many questions raised by evolutionary theory — like whether man has a unique place in the world or is merely the chance product of random mutations — go beyond empirical science and are better addressed in the realm of philosophy or theology...The most passionate advocates of evolutionary theory offer a vision of man as a kind of historical accident.
This annoys me almost more than anything else. Evolutionary theory has not ever said that humankind might be "the chance product of random mutations". The fact that Brownback writes this belies his utter ignorance of the theory of evolution and his unwillingness to explore areas of inquiry where he seems to have at least a modicum of interest, yet no desire to search beyond his comfort zone of ideas and philosophy. The same criticism can be leveled at his final sentence and his attribution to "passionate advocates of evolutionary theory" the ludricrious idea that humans are a "historical accident".

More stupidness follows with:
It does not strike me as anti-science or anti-reason to question the philosophical presuppositions behind theories offered by scientists who, in excluding the possibility of design or purpose, venture far beyond their realm of empirical science.
Scientists do not "exclude the possibility of design or purpose", they see no need to use that explanation because a perfectly good natural one is evident once you study, absorb, and comprehend the science of the problem. Again, Brownback lays his ignorance out on the stainless steel exam table, all pink and naked for us to examine.
I am wary of any theory that seeks to undermine man’s essential dignity and unique and intended place in the cosmos. I firmly believe that each human person, regardless of circumstance, was willed into being and made for a purpose.
I'd like to know how, exactly, the fuck Brownback knows that mankind has a "unique and intented place in the cosmos". Again he just decrees that we're special and great and unique and that each person is a snowflake intended to land on a certain other person's tongue and make their life better - tell that to the poor fuckers living in the displacement camps in Darfur who just buried their baby because no one gives enough of a shit to help. Where's your God now, douchebag? What a fucking limited worldview from a self-centered assclown.

Finally we have this rehashing of regurgitated non-thinking:
While no stone should be left unturned in seeking to discover the nature of man’s origins, we can say with conviction that we know with certainty at least part of the outcome. Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order..Aspects of these theories that undermine this truth, however, should be firmly rejected as an atheistic theology posing as science.
This is the exact problem with so-called "creation science" - he says that we should do everything we can to find out about humankind's origins, BUT that we already know part of the answer! No, Sam, we fucking DON'T! That's the way science works, jackass - no one knows how the experiment turns out until it's done. No, "man was not an accident", man seems to have evolved from ancestors that adapted to new environments and eventually became new species after millions and millions of years and genetic mutations. One more time, all together, "Mutations are random - Natural Selection is not". If Mr. Brownback spent a little more time reading something that contradicts his worldviews and maybe challenged him to actually think, he might not say handicapped shit like this, which he said on Larry King on August 23, 2005:
There's intelligence involved in the overall of creation...I think what we passed in the U.S. Senate in 2002 is really what we should be doing, and that is that you teach the controversy, you teach what is fact is fact, and what is theory is theory, and you move from that proceedings, rather than from teaching some sort of different thought. And this, I really think that's the area we should concentrate on at the present time, is teaching the controversy.
See, he should know that there is no controversy among scientists (real scientists) over whether evolution happened. He also quite plainly does not realize that the scientific meaning of "theory" differs greatly from the colloquial meaning of the word. The ignorance (or abject dishonesty) of Brownback should immediately disqualify him for all but the most meaningless jobs in society, but of course he will likely get a cushy appointment within the next administration and be involved in a scandal that will cost him his job...quickly followed by a book and speaking tour where he'll make more money than I will in the next twenty years.


(via the always great One Good Move)

5 Barbaric Yawps:

At 3/6/07 2:31 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice post. I couldn't have put it better myself. One thing to point out though: if it makes you feel a tiny bit better, there's very little chance that Brownback will get an appointment in the next adminstration. Even if the republicans somehow manage to win in 2008, he won't be the cantidate. Come February 2008, Brownback will almost certainly begin his retirement into obscurity.

Of course, some other ignorant bastard will take his place...

At 3/6/07 10:51 am, Blogger BigHeathenMike said...

Yeah, fair enough. Small consolation, but consolation nonetheless.

At 4/6/07 11:00 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great job, Mike. Also, let's note his use of the word "man" when talking about humans. Why do sexism and creationism go together so well? Maybe because that book they love so much is a manual for putting down women, people of color, etc

At 4/6/07 12:52 pm, Blogger BigHeathenMike said...

Thank you, sir/ma'am. And ain't that the truth? I purposely used "humankind" in place of "man" to separate myself and be inclusive - oddly the creationists and non-thinkers like Brownback seem to overlook this fairly basic idea.

At 4/6/07 6:07 pm, Anonymous Chaoswes said...

It is really difficult to say if that is actually what the jackass thinks. He is from a backass state with a large fuckwit voting base. Perhaps he is just pandering to the knuckle-dragging hypocrites that put his ignorant ass into office.


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